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Holy Father Back in
Gemelli Hospital

Update of April 2, 2005

Pope John Paul II died today at 9:37 PM Vatican time, 1:37 PM Central, USA.

He had been running a high fever again today, and had been having difficulty staying awake. At one point, learning that young people had gathered in St. Peter's Square to wait with him, he said "I have looked for you, and you have come to me. Thank you."

News reports say that the Pope's last word was "amen."

Pope John Paul II's death was announced first to 70,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square, before emails were sent to news services around the world.

The immediate cause of death was kidney and heart failure.

Update of April 1, 2005

Pope John Paul II is gravely ill. News reports say that a senior Vatican official believes that the Pope's death may be near.

For the first time in his 26-year papacy, the Holy Father did not preside over Palm Sunday Mass, March 20. He did appear at his apartment window, waving an olive branch, without speaking. He did not speak in public during Holy Week, but communicated through written messages.

The Pope was not at Holy Thursday Mass, but in a message read by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, greeted worshipers and assured them that he was following the Mass on television.

John Paul II used television to participate in Good Friday's Way of the Cross at the Colosseum. He sat in his Vatican chapel, in white robes and red stole, watching the procession on television. People at the Colosseum saw the Pope several times on giant television screens which were set up by Vatican TV.

The Holy Father tried to speak Easter Sunday, March 27, was unable to form words, and delivered his Easter blessing with a sign of the cross.

The next day, John Paul II was not at his window for the traditional appearance of the Pope.

Wednesday, March 30, the Pope had a feeding tube fitted through his nose. He had been having difficulty swallowing, and needed additional calories to build up strength.

March 31, we learned that John Paul II had a high fever, resulting from a urinary infection.

Today, the Holy Father is suffering from septic shock. The Vatican announced that the Pope's condition is "very serious" after heart failure.

Septic shock, according to news articles, is a condition where bacteria get loose in the blood, blood vessels loose their tone, can't hold shape, and so allow blood pressure to drop. The heart pumps faster and harder, trying to restore blood pressure. Given time, organs start to fail because they aren't getting enough oxygen. The kidneys tend to go first, bringing the rest down as waste products build up in the body. The condition can be treated with antibiotics and other drugs, but even then puts a great strain on the body.

Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson published the following message on the Knights of Columbus website (

"As we prepare for Divine Mercy Sunday, I ask all members of the Knights of Columbus and their families to keep the Holy Father at the very center of our prayers and intentions. During these very difficult days, there is no greater gift or sign of solidarity that we can offer to him than our communion with him in prayer. Please pray to the merciful Christ, the Lord of Divine Mercy, that he may bless and strengthen Pope John Paul II, so that he may continue to advance the mission of the Gospel as the Vicar of Christ on earth."

Update of March 14, 2005

The pope is back in the Vatican. A silver van drove Pope John Paul II there from the Gemelli Hospital Sunday evening, March 13, 2005. He sat next to the driver in the van's front seat, waving to folks who had gathered to cheer him on his way.

Catholic World News reported that at midday Sunday, the Holy Father said, "Dear brothers and sisters, thank you for your visit." Those were the first words he had said in public since his February 24 surgery. He had spoken before, on March 11, in a Vatican television broadcast, as he met bishops from Tanzania.

A Vatican statement said, "The Holy Father, in agreement with the attending physicians, will return to the Vatican this evening, where he will continue his convalescence."

Update of March 9, 2005

Pope John Paul II has been celebrating Mass every day in his hospital room. After concelebrating today's Mass with other prelates, he went to the window and blessed the people outside. Hundreds of people responded with cheers and songs. The Pope has not held his weekly Wednesday general audience since returning to the Gemelli Hospital.

On March 8, Vatican officials expected the Pope to be out of the hospital and back at the Vatican in time for Holy Week, but did not expect him to participate in many Easter celebrations. Doctors have advised that he not speak very much, and there hasn't been official word on whether the Holy Father will give his Urbi et Orbi (City and World) blessing Easter Sunday, or have the message read for him.

John Paul II has been keeping up with Church business while in the hospital. Recently, he appointed a bishop for Bragnaca Paulista, Brazil: Jose Maria Pinheiro. He also appointed Fr. Tome Ferreira da Silva as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

While hundreds of people have gathered under the Pope's hospital room window in Rome, tens of thousands have sent email messages, wishing him well. In just the first two and a half days of March, about 20,000 emails arrived for the Pope: roughly 10,000 in English; 6,000 in Spanish; 2,000 in Portuguese; 1,100 in Italian; 850 in German; and 800 in French. The Holy Father's email address is

Update of March 6, 2005

Pope John Paul II blessed people for a second Sunday at the window of his room at the Gemelli Hospital in Rome. As he had on the previous Sunday, he did not speak, but made the sign of the cross.

Video of the Holy Father's blessings confirm that the reporter who described his movements as "strong" was more accurate than those reporting otherwise.

According to news reports, the Pope is working with therapists, while dealing with Church business from his hospital room.

The following is an article from the March 2005 K of C Bulletin.

Information for the original article came from Catholic News Agency (, Catholic World News (, EWTN (, the Vatican Information Service (, and Zenit ("The World Seen From Rome") ( Information for the updates came from the same sources, and from Fox News (

Pope John Paul II was hospitalized twice in February of 2005. The second time, he agreed to a tracheotomy, making it easier to breathe.

As journalists swarmed around the Gemelli on Friday the 25th, the Holy See's Press Office Director reported that "The Holy Father spent a night of tranquil rest." The Pope was still at the Gemilli hospital, about two miles northwest of the Vatican, when this bulletin went to press on February 28.

Sunday morning, February 27, Pope John Paul II came to the window of his hospital room for about two minutes, blessing the people outside with the sign of the cross, but didn't say the Angelus prayer himself. His movements during the blessing and later as he gestured at his throat, were what one reporter called "strong." This was the first time in his 26 years in Peter's seat that he hadn't said the prayer himself.

This was quite understandable, since he's under doctor's orders to not use his voice. In any event, speaking would be a little difficult after his tracheotomy.

A tracheotomy is an operation in which a tube is put in the throat, below the voice box, making an open airway between the windpipe and the outside of the patient's neck. The Holy Father's operation took about 30 minutes on Thursday evening, February 24. The operation was necessary, because Pope John Paul II had trouble breathing.

While reporters and experts discussed what they thought about the Pope's medical condition and how it affects his ability to lead, the administrative and diplomatic functions of the church continue.

Ordinary business, carrying out decisions the Pope has already made, isn't affected. Matters which are referred to Cardinals or Bishops can be considered, but must wait until the Pope is available for final confirmation.

There are some things that the Holy See can't do without the Pope. New laws, official interpretations of existing laws, establishing new dioceses, appointing bishops, decrees of martyrdom, miracles, beatification and canonization, or any other decision which depends of papal teaching or authority must wait for the Pope's direct involvement.

Pope John Paul II's appearance at his hospital window on February 27 was unexpected, but might not be so surprising, considering how durable this Pope has been. He has been in and out of a hospital quite a few times since an assassin tried to kill him.

  • May 13 to June 3, 1981 Gunshot wounds
  • July 1 to 28 1992 Intestinal surgery
  • Nov. 11 to 12 1992 Dislocated shoulder
  • April 27 May 27 1994 Fractured femur surgery
  • Oct. 15 18 1996 Appendectomy
  • Feb. 1 10 2005 Flu, throat spasms
  • Feb. 24 Tracheotomy

It may be that being a "difficult patient" may be part of what has kept Pope John Paul II going all these years. The Associated Press said that Dr. Corrado Manni, anesthesiologist, remembers the Pope as a difficult patient after the 1981 attempt on his life. According to Dr. Manni, John Paul II said, "The pope is either well, and then he must leave, or he is not well, and then he must stay." Of getting this determined leader to accept convalescence as a halfway state between being well and not well, Dr. Manni said, "I understand the difficulties his aides must have in dealing with such a situation. The Holy Father is difficult."

Brian H. Gill, Editor, Sauk Centre K of C Bulletin

March 2005

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This page last updated December 19, 2010